How to build characters for your novel

Imagine someone wearing this chainmail. How do you bring him to life in your story?

Imagine someone wearing this chainmail. How do you bring him to life in your story?

If you’ve written a few pages, I’m sure you’ve realized that without good characters, you’re lost. No story is good enough to stand on its own if the characters are boring and lifeless. Without believable characters nobody wants to turn the next page. In fact, good and interesting characters can make the reader love your book even if the story is somewhat boring. (Not saying it should be boring!)

So how do you “make” a good character?

I think that’s the one question I’m asked most often. And to be honest, I have no rules myself. I have no standard procedure that I follow. In fact, the characters tend to just step into the story while I’m writing, and they seem to have a very precise idea of why they’re there. I see their faces, I observe their manners, I sometimes even smell them. So I guess it’s wrong to say that I “build” them. They’re already built, so to speak. I know this is because it has become a subconscious prosess, there’s no mystery about it. But if you’re new to writing, there are actually a few things you can do to actively build your characters. For instance, try asking your character these questions:

1, Who’s your daddy?

You should have an idea of where the character comes from. You should try to investigate why the character behaves the way he/she does. Who’s your daddy? And who’s your mother? Are they dead or not? How was your childhood?

2, Why are you here?

What does the character want? Why is he/she there? If he/she won’t tell you, why is that?

3, Why are you standing/waking/talking like that?

We all carry our past experiences with us and it shows in the way we behave. Take a look at the character’s mannerisms. Why is he/she behaving like that?

4, What’s your weakness?

Everybody’s got a weakness. You should try to find out which one it is for you character … It might get him/her into trouble.

5, Where are you going?

You should know where your character is heading geographically. Most people are on their way to something. They might not look like they’re in a hurry, but most people have somewhere they need to be in the near future, even if they are sitting down.

Now, there are lots of these questions you could ask your character. The 5 above are a start. This should come naturally to you while you’re writing, but you don’t need to know the answer to all of them right away. Be patient. Follow your characters.

Happy writing!

Categories: English, Novels, Writing

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